1. MINIMUM WAGE, BILL MOVEs TO
STATE SENATE FOR DEBATE
The Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations Wednesday favorably moved a bill by Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans to increase the state's minimum wage to $8.50 an hour by 2019.
Senate Bill 153, which was approved for full Senate debate on a 4-2 vote, would increase the state's minimum wage from the federal minimum hourly wage of $7.25 to $8 an hour starting Jan. 1, 2018, and $8.50 beginning Jan. 1, 2019. It last was raised in 2009.
State Sen. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans, said he wished more legislators had the "cojones" to pass the minimum wage bill, which he said "takes a wrong turn" every session it is brought up. "The vast majority of individuals who live here know that this is the right thing to do," Bishop said, citing a Louisiana Budget Project survey that found 70 percent of Louisianans support a higher state minimum wage. (Louisiana is one of five states that has no minimum wage law and instead follows federal law.) — CAITIE BURKES | MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
2. Quote of the week
"A Sharknado-sized health insurance program for 20 percent of Americans." — Sen. John Neely Kennedy last week, describing Medicaid. Kennedy said he is introducing federal legislation called the "Medicaid Reform and Personal Responsibility Act of 2017," which would require "able-bodied adult enrollees" without dependents to work, go to school or perform community service for 20 hours a week in order to receive Medicaid health benefits.
3. Charbonnet to make "important announcement" May 22
Former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet, who stepped down from her judgeship last month in what was seen as a preamble to joining the New Orleans mayor's race, has invited supporters to "an important announcement" May 22 at the Sheraton Hotel New Orleans.
If Charbonnet declares her candidacy Monday, it will bring to four the number of announced candidates for mayor. Former Judge Michael Bagneris declared his candidacy earlier this month at Dooky Chase restaurant. District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell has yet to make a formal announcement but already is stumping and fundraising on a Facebook page and a campaign website. Businessman Frank Scurlock also has declared his candidacy; he was arrested earlier this month near the site of the former Jefferson Davis monument on Canal Street.
4. Death penalty bill killed
A bid to end the death penalty in Louisiana was killed last week after a House committee rejected — by a single vote — a bill that would eliminate capital punishment. The bill's failure to get past the House Administration of Criminal Justice committee seemed to signal that an identical bill that had been passed by a Senate committee, authored by state Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, also would fail to advance through the Legislature. After last week's vote, Claitor said he would abandon his bill as well.
One of the nine lawmakers to vote against the bill, state Rep. Steven Pylant, R-Winnsboro, actually was a co-sponsor of the measure. It was authored by state Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia. During debate, Pylant, a Republican and retired sheriff of Franklin Parish, said he was in fact "100 percent in favor of the death penalty" and that he had put his name on the prospective legislation so the public could be aware of how infrequently the death penalty was applied in Louisiana.
"The death penalty works, it just has to be done swiftly," Pylant said, adding that aside from extra guards, it was his understanding that it was "just as costly" to house death row inmates as other inmates. Claitor had said that it costs the state significantly more to house death row inmates than other prisoners.
5. Sex ed survey opposed by conservative lawmakers
A bill from state Sen. Yvonne Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, would have allowed the state's departments of health and education to administer an anonymous survey to school districts to gauge risk behaviors among high school students. The full Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey already is administered in 42 other states. In Louisiana, the survey omits questions about sexual activity but does ask about drug and alcohol use, among other behaviors. Colomb's Senate Bill 85 would allow the omitted questions on the survey.
After pushback from conservative opponents, however, the bill failed by a vote of 14-22 during Senate debate May 16. The bill is scheduled for reconsideration but is likely to face more opposition.
State Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, called the survey "an assault on innocence" and "emotionally damaging" and "confusing."
"We lead the nation in STDs and teenage pregnancies," said state Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans. "What we're doing right now doesn't work. This is about collecting data so we know best how to create programming. ... If we don't have data to present a plan to help our kids fight these problems, then what are we really doing?"
6. Farewell, Robert E. Lee
As workers continued to take down the statue of Robert E. Lee from Lee Circle May 19, Mayor Mitch Landrieu gave an invitation-only speech at Gallier Hall, where he addressed removal of the four Confederate-era monuments. Calling New Orleans "a bubbling cauldron of many cultures," Landrieu said those who wanted the monuments kept were "eerily silent about what amounts to historical malfeasance," and cited the city's role in the slave trade. "The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity," Landrieu added, insisting the statue removal did not "erase history," but was making history by "righting the wrong image these monuments represent." Even as Lee came down, the city still had no word about where the statues eventually would be on permanent display. Some monument supporters were angered earlier in the week when photos revealed the P.G.T. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis statues now sit in a city-owned lot rather than in a warehouse, as officials earlier had promised.
7. Jail expansion
OK'd by Council
The New Orleans City Council voted 5-1 May 18 to support an 89-bed jail expansion. The extension was part of a plan proposed by the jail's federal consent decree compliance director Gary Maynard, who suggested adding a facility to house inmates with mental health or other medical issues.
At-Large Councilwoman Stacy Head was absent for the vote. District B City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell voted against the motion. Cantrell objected to housing prisoners with mental health issues when they could be treated at area hospitals. Community advocates also spoke against the Orleans Justice Center expansion, arguing the inclusion of mental health beds would reverse depopulation trends at the prison. The vote sends the plans to the City Planning Commission for review.
8. 'Sanctuary cities'
measure passes House
A measure to punish cities the state attorney general believes are harboring people living in the country illegally won approval from the Louisiana House of Representatives May 18 after it failed earlier this month. In its latest iteration, House Bill 676 by state Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, gives municipalities with so-called "sanctuary" policies 90 days to change them or risk losing state funding — though Hodges conceded that Louisiana does not have any municipalities that meet the bill's "sanctuary" definition.
In a statement, Attorney General Jeff Landry celebrated the bill's passage. It now awaits approval in the Senate. "In a loud, overwhelming manner, the Louisiana House declared our state should not give more rights to criminal illegal aliens than to our own citizens," Landry said. "Sanctuary cities impede communication and coordination with immigration authorities, which in turn threatens public safety and jeopardizes our state's access to federal funding."
9. Fall concerts: Katy
Perry, Taj Mahal, Keb'
Mo' and more
New Orleans' fall concert calendar is starting to fill out. Following its first album in five years, Grizzly Bear will launch a world tour, which includes a stop at the Civic Theatre Nov. 12. Tickets go on sale 10 a.m. May 24. Other recently announced fall shows include Sylvan Esso at the Civic Sept. 1, Melvins at One Eyed Jacks Sept. 13, Taj Mahal and Keb' Mo' Band at the Orpheum Theater Sept. 24, Mac DeMarco at the Orpheum Sept. 27, Thundercat at Tipitina's Oct. 6, Spoon at the House of Blues Oct. 17, The xx at Champions Square Oct. 19 and Japandroids and Cloud Nothings at Republic Nov. 10.
Katy Perry also announced a New Orleans date for her Witness tour. She headlines the Smoothie King Center Jan. 5, 2018. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. May 22.
10. Quaid to play W in Katrina: American Crime Story
Actor Dennis Quaid is the latest high-profile name to join the cast of Katrina: American Crime Story, producer Ryan Murphy's limited series examining the days after Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Quaid will play President George W. Bush. Previous cast announcements have included Annette Bening as former Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Matthew Broderick as hapless FEMA head Michael "Brownie" Brown.
The series is set to air on FX in 2018.